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18 x December 21, 2017 - January 3, 2018 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com CONTINUED FROM PAGE 16 of us went silent as we gazed upon it. There was no garland strung up nor carols reverberating from speakers. One by one, each member of the youth group stepped cautiously out of the van. The first thing we noticed was the air. How heavy it was, and how it smelled stale and musty, and not like snicker doodle cookies. Next to me, Casey, my best friend, wrinkled her nose, then immediately started planning where all the Christmas decorations would go. She was always one to look on the bright side. All of a sudden, Collin, our group leader, turned around to face us. His face was solemn, yet hopeful. “Why are we here?” he asked, taking the time to look at each one of us individually. “As you’ve noticed, these people don’t have money to buy lights for their houses or wreaths for their doors. So, one, we’re here to spread Christmas cheer. But, more importantly, we’re here to show these people the same love that God bestows upon us.” Looking for premium quality Table Linens and Decor for the holidays, a special event or to enhance your home? Please visit our website centerpiecetablelinenanddecor.com WE SPECIALIZE IN: The determination in his voice was clear. Each member hurried over to the van and unloaded the Christmas presents we’d packed for the children. I carefully handled the box, studying the little reindeer and bearded, chubby Santas on the wrapping paper. This may be the only present they receive this year, I thought. I squinted at the boys playing soccer on a grassy field, gazed at the little girls giggling and twisting each other’s hair, and smiled to myself at the sight of the many fathers, as well as mothers, cooking and tending to their homes. I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride and strolled over to a young girl, head held high and a smile on my face. I knelt down on one knee and said softly, “Hi. My name’s Becca. My friends and I,” and I paused to point at them, “are here to spread a little Christmas cheer.” Then, as the girl slowly picked up her head to look at my face, I noticed her big, beautiful brown eyes. Eyes that were filled with curiosity and wonder and shine. Unique Glass Chargers (food grade) Elegant Table Runners (including limited edition designs) Gorgeous Table Toppers (tablecloth overlays) Lustrous Tableсloths Soft, Satiny, Colorful Napkins “Thank you,” she said, as she gently took the box from my hands and set it on the ground next to her. And, to my surprise, the brown-eyed girl jumped up and wrapped her arms around me, hugging me tightly. She then whispered four short words in my ear, “My name is Nadia.” And I hugged her even tighter. To this day, my eyes still fill with tears when I think about that moment. Most of us think of Christmas as just a time of glittery decorations and holiday music, but it’s so much more than that. We are blessed with so much, so we can always give love. And that’s the way it is — love and share, share and love. Honorable Mention My Favorite Day by Emma Jane Patterson Stoneybrook West There are many exciting and fun days during the year. As I go through the year, I get closer to my favorite day. My favorite day of the year is Christmas! What I like about Christmas is getting time off for vacation, going to the movies, seeing my friends, sleeping in late and wearing pajamas. Usually around Christmas, it is much colder than any other time of the year. I like having the windows open at home and letting the cool air come inside. I also like being able to wear different kinds of clothes like sweatshirts and warmups during this time. Many people do not like the cold weather, but I find it refreshing. The colder the better! Obviously, presents are all-important during Christmas, because they surprise the person with the gift inside. I like seeing a person’s reaction when he or she receives a present. Most importantly, I find that giving a present to someone makes me feel better than receiving one. It is really the thought of giving that counts. At my school, we have a program that is called the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Program. The program gives each child in our school a shoebox, and we fill the shoebox with whatever we want. At the deadline of the program, the people come to each classroom, collect the boxes and ship them to a poor country. It is a great way to make someone feel delighted. Spending time with my family is important to me. My family is pleasant to hang around with on Christmas day. We all get together at my house. I usually play with my sisters, cousins and my grandparents all day. We play basketball, watch Christmas movies, and gather around and eat a great Christmas feast. I am lucky to have so many people be around me at once. I hope I will always feel the same way about this time of year. Christmas is coming, and I can’t wait to take part in all my favorite things. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, as well! Honorable Mention A Christmas Without Her by Emma Neary Celebration Christmas has always been a holiday that has remained in most people’s hearts as a joyous tradition; however, for one young girl, this occasion brought nothing but the sadness and pain of ugly memories. Her name was Holly, and she adored Christmas more than anything, because the season was spent with her dear mother, Carol. The holiday brought them closer, keeping the motherand-daughter bond. They would make gingerbread houses, go ice-skating and sing carols. But their favorite thing to do was decorate the Christmas tree. The one thing that connected them was Christmas. Unfortunately, all good things eventually come to an end. Holly’s mother died a few months before Christmas due to a fatal car accident. This ended Holly’s world; her mother was everything to her, but death had taken her away. She swung into a hurling depression, not wanting anything that associated with her mother, even Christmas. Holly wanted to avoid the pain, even if it meant skipping this holiday. Cookies weren’t made, the skates were untouched, and a tree was never put up. Her life remained dark rather than being lit by the glimmering lights of Christmas. Holly just couldn’t celebrate without her mother. Strange things can happen on Christmas Eve, not only bizarre events, but teaching moments. So, on the night before Christmas Day, Holly got ready for bed just as she would normally do. Suddenly, a gust of wind smacked against her window, pushing it open with full force. With it, a small picture

lew in and floated to the ground. Holly picked it up curiously to see what it was, discovering that it was an old family photo. It showed Holly and her mother decorating a Christmas tree. Where did it come from? she asked herself. As she was about to discard it in hopes of avoiding the pain, something caught her eye. In the photo, her mother was smiling. This made Holly curious. Why was she happy? Was it because the tree looked so beautiful with its shiny balls and glimmering lights? Was it the huge star that sat on top and watched as they celebrated? Was it something else that made her smile? What if it was just them being together? Then Holly thought, You don’t need shiny balls and lights to make your Christmas better. You need friends and family who can share the joy you feel. Even if somebody cannot be with you, they are always there, especially in your heart. Holly’s mother was always there. It was not a Christmas without her, because Holly was never alone, somebody was always there! Holly knew Christmas must come, so she rushed downstairs. When she got there, it was the start of a Christmas miracle! Her eyes widened as she saw a huge Christmas tree that was not there before. It was decorated with sparkling lights, colorful ornaments and a huge gold star on top. Presents lined the bottom as music played in the distance. The first smile in ages grew across Holly’s face, because she realized something very special had occurred, and that she would never be alone nor spend a Christmas without her mom. Honorable Mention Everest’s Way Home by Sofia Franceschi Arlington Bay “Everest?” Alma called. “Let’s go back inside,” Mrs. Hadrian said. “We’ve been looking for an hour, and it’s too cold to look any longer.” As Alma sat on the warm couch, Mrs. Hadrian gave her a small cup of hot chocolate and turned on her favorite TV show. “We’ll never find him,” Alma said, starting to cry. “I’m sure we will,” Mrs. Hadrian assured her. A small Maltese roamed the streets confused. Where did that squirrel go? the little dog thought. Soon enough, Everest became tired and decided to head home. As he turned around, he quickly realized there was no certain way home. Everest was lost! Eventually, snow began to fall. As the weather grew colder, poor Everest grew more worried. At this point, warm shelter was a top priority. The streets became more empty by the minute, and, eventually, what was once a busy street was now like a ghost town. Alas, the frail dog found a small shelter that would have to do for the evening. He rested his head on a dirty blanket and fell fast asleep. As Alma stapled the paper onto the post, she let out a sigh. It had been a week since her little dog had been gone, and she was close to giving up. Mrs. Hadrian held Alma’s hand as they moved to the next post. Mr. Hadrian finished stapling a few papers and soon caught up with the pair. “Are you sure you are going to be OK doing more papers?” he asked. “You look tired.” Alma, facing her dad, turned to the paper and shook her head. “I can finish stapling the rest,” Mrs. Hadrian said, motioning toward Mr. Hadrian’s stapler. There was an uncomfortable silence between Mr. Hadrian and Alma as they walked back home. Mr. Hadrian broke the silence as Alma was fixing her scarf. “Are you excited for Christmas?” Mr. Hadrian asked. “Sure.” Alma said quietly, and the conversation started from there. Eventually, the pair arrived home. “Well, we’re home,” Mr. Hadrian said. “Do you have any homework you need to do?” “Yeah,” Alma said. “Finish the rest of your homework,” Mr. Hadrian said. “By the time you’re done, Mom will be home, and she’ll make you lunch.” As Everest roamed the park, bells were ringing, and songs of the season could be heard throughout. Everest sniffed the sheets of snow. There were several people hanging an evergreen bough with ornaments onto a fence. Everest longed to be with Alma when he saw this, knowing www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 21, 2017 - January 3, 2018 x 19 her joy when she helped her parents add these festive items around the house. Suddenly, a familiar scent came to him, and he began to follow it. Once Alma finished lunch, she headed to her room. Her mother quickly stopped her. “Alma, I have an idea.” “What is it?” Alma asked. “Maybe we can invite your friends over to help look for Everest,” Mrs. Hadrian said. “I’m sure they will have the winter spirit to help you find him!” Alma’s face lit up with joy. “I love that idea!” About an hour later, Alma and three of her friends — Becky, Sophie and Zoey — were scattered around the neighborhood. Alma paced around the front yard, searching for any signs of Everest. Almost 20 minutes later, the group was searching every inch of the front yard for the dog. All of a sudden, a small Maltese with a bright Christmas-themed collar came racing to Alma. “Everest!” she exclaimed, as the small Maltese ran into her arms. The group sang holiday songs of joy as Everest lay joyfully in Alma’s arms. NOW ACCEPTING NEW PATIENTS www.MyFamilyOrtho.com CALL TODAY! (407) 258-3262 7848 Winter Garden Vineland Rd. Suite 100, Windermere Honorable Mention One Day in the Life of Esmeralda by Leticia Subbarao Dr. Phillips The city of Santiago was getting ready to welcome the holiday season, and the sounds of Christmas could be seen and heard all over the city. It was summer and the end of the school year. Esmeralda, a vivacious 11-year-old girl with light brown hair and beautiful greenish eyes, was still sleeping when her mother’s voice woke her up. “Sweetheart, breakfast is ready.” Esmeralda got out of bed and ran barefoot to open her window. Her eyes had to adjust to the morning light. The day was so bright and inviting, a soft breeze was caressing her face. She smiled. In the distance, the sunlight reflected off the white peaks of the majestic Andes Mountain with a silver glow. The sound of the bells ringing from the old Spanish church in her neighborhood reminded her of the busy day ahead. Esmeralda went to take a shower and CONTINUED ON PAGE 20 Special Grand Opening Pricing For a Limited Time! 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